The Biden Administration has made nearly $105 million in grant funding available to states and territories, including $1,972,989 for Maryland, through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help implement the 9-8-8 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
In 2020, Congress designated 9-8-8 as the dialing code for the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which exists to help people overcome crisis situations and connect them to needed services and supports. As noted in a recent blog post by the National Association of Counties, these funds are “aimed at building local crisis capacity, increasing response rates to calls, texts and chats, bolstering the crisis care and behavioral health workforce and ensuring the appropriate infrastructure is in place to support Lifeline users while connecting them to care within their local communities.”
The grant funds awarded to Maryland will be used by the Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Administration (BHA), in partnership with local jurisdictions and Maryland Lifeline crisis centers, to increase staff within the state’s eight Lifeline centers, increase training, improve coordination between 9-8-8 and 9-1-1, monitor and improve communications, and increase follow-up services, among other reforms.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra explained the importance of 9-8-8 and federal/state coordination in a press release:
“Providing states and territories with the support to prevent suicide by assisting people in crisis is critical to our nation’s health,” said Secretary Becerra. “It is imperative that states and territories partner closely with HHS to ensure the highest level of 988 contact response.”
At present, Maryland provides a suicide intervention hotline through its 2-1-1 program. The program has responded to over 10,000 calls per month for at least the past 3 years. According to Maryland’s State Suicide Prevention Plan, in 2018, 650 Marylanders died by suicide, a number that has likely increased year-to-year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until the formal launch of 988 on July 16, 2022, anyone in mental health crisis or emotional distress should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Maryland’s suicide prevention program at 2-1-1. People not in crisis who are seeking treatment options for mental health conditions should visit findtreatment.samhsa.gov or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has also developed a 988 Partner Toolkit for governments and organizations seeking to bolster the national effort. Additional resources are available on the SAMHSA 988 web page.